Understanding Service Animal Laws & Rights
- Most people are familiar with guide dogs that help people who are blind to get around safely. But there are many other types of service animals that assist people with a wide range of disabilities. Animals can be trained to pull a wheelchair or retrieve objects for people who use wheelchairs, alert people who are deaf to sounds in the environment, alert people with epilepsy to an impending seizure, help people with autism to stay focused, and perform many other tasks. Most people with disabilities who use service animals find the animals essential for coping with situations in everyday life.
- Service Animals – are specifically defined as a dog (and in some cases miniature horse or monkey) who perform specific tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The rule states that other animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, either for protection, comfort, emotional support or otherwise, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are NOT SERVICE ANIMALS.
35.136 Service Animals – The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
- Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, NOT PETS.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
- As of March 15, 2011, the ADA has redefined “Service Animal” to clarify that individuals with mental disabilities who use service animals that are trained to perform a specific task are protected by the ADA.
35.136 Service Animals – retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
- Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public MUST allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos. Ty pical restaurants, stores, and other businesses with a “no pets” policy must make an exception to the policy when a customer has a service animal. In the case of hospitals, it is inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as ambulances, patient rooms, clinics, examination rooms, etc. The only time, it may be appropriate to exclude a service dog is when sterile environments are required such as in operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise that sterile environment.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (a) A public entity shall modify its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.
(g) Access to areas of a public entity. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a public entity’s facilities where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.
- Despite the right of public entities to inquire, when it is OBVIOUS the dog is a service dog (ie. Vest or labeling of some kind) and the service dog is working (eg. The dog is observed guiding an individual .
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (f) Inquiries. Generally, a public entity may not make inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.
- Businesses may NOT ask the nature or extent of a person’s disability. A business MAY only ask two questions if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (f) Inquiries. A public entity shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public entity may ask if (1) the animal is required because of a disability and (2) what work or task the animal has been trained to perform
- Businesses CANNOT require special ID cards or for other proof the service animal is certified or trained
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (f) Inquiries. A public entity shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.
- Businesses CANNOT ask about a person’s disability.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (f) Inquiries. A public entity shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public entity may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform.
- Service Dogs must always be under control of its handler.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (d) Animal under handler’s control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).
- If a service animal is out of control and presents a direct threat to others, businesses may ask the customer to remove it from the premises.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (b) Exceptions. A public entity may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if—(1) The animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or (2) The animal is not housebroken.
- If a Person with a disability has a service dog that is acting up and excluded, the entity must attempt to allow the individual with the disability to participate in the service/activity without the service dog.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (c) If an animal is properly excluded. If a public entity properly excludes a service animal under § 35.136(b), it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in the service, program, or activity without having the service animal on the premises.
- People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
§ 35.136 Service animals – (h) Surcharges. A public entity shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public entity normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
- A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (e) Care or supervision. A public entity is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.
- Allergies, fear of dogs or cleanliness are NOT valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service dogs. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service dog must spend time in the same room or facility, attempts to separate and accommodate both by having them in different locations must be made without excluding the service dog and handler.
§ 35.136 Service Animals – (g) Access. – Fear of allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying or refusing access or services.
Violators of the ADA can be required to pay monetary damages and penalties.
When in doubt, you may ask the person if his or her animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. However, you should not expect the person to show a special ID card for the animal and should not ask about the person’s disability. Many uncomfortable situations can be avoided by educating others about the rights of people who use service animals.
Reference Sources http://www.ada.gov
ADA Information Line – 1-800-514-0301